Easing the pressure of debt

The impact of debt on people’s health and wellbeing can be devastating and Kent County Council’s (KCC) financial hardship team has been looking at ways to help support and ease that burden for residents.

This has included an 11-month pilot project bringing together Citizens Advice and Crosslight Advice, who both provide practical step-by-step support out of debt, and the Wave Community Bank, which offers ethical, affordable loans and accounts to people in Kent and Medway as well as education programmes in budgeting and saving to encourage more sustainable and secure financial futures.

Up until April this year, anyone applying for a Debt Relief Order (DRO), which clears existing debt on everything from council tax to energy bills and rent, would have needed to pay a £90 fee. This made the life of someone struggling with money even more difficult.

The project, funded by KCC’s Helping Hands scheme, covered the cost of the fee for 66 residents with the bank administering the DRO payments and debt specialists reducing the DRO processing time for processing from weeks to days.

Roger Gough - KCC Leader

I am extremely proud of the work of KCC’s Financial Hardship team, and how they are working collaboratively with all our partners across Kent to help people find a practical way forward.

Roger Gough Leader of KCC

Leader of KCC Roger Gough said: “If you are worried about your financial circumstances it can lead to stress, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. Sadly, the pressures of recent years mean that many people continue to need advice and support with financial problems.

“I am extremely proud of the work of KCC’s Financial Hardship team, and how they are working collaboratively with all our partners across Kent to help people find a practical way forward and, most importantly, to understand they are not alone in these difficult times.

“Our Citizens Advice colleagues reported that one client’s mental health, which had suffered enormously in recent years because of money worries, was hugely improved as a result of advice about a Debt Relief Order. The support she received, and the fact that she was no longer being constantly chased for payments, meant that she was able to get on with her life, manage her day-to-day finances and finally be able to sleep at night. This is just one of so many positive stories thanks to the impact of the Helping Hands project.”

The project has now come to an end and will not be repeated as the government has said it believes that admin fee could be a barrier to dealing with debt and has therefore abolished the admin fee.

  • If you are overwhelmed by debt and do not know where to start, the best call you could make is to the Kent Money Advice Hub for free, confidential, independent and impartial advice. You can speak to a real debt advisor via a phone call, video call or online chat facility from your phone or from one of the kiosks in community spaces dotted around the county. Explain your situation and discuss your options. Once a plan has been agreed, the hub team will work alongside you.

Further information

  • KCC’s Helping Hands scheme was first started in 2021 for families and businesses adversely affected by the pandemic and has evolved with cost-of-living support.
  • The Debt Relief Order (DRO) project was initially planned to be piloted for four months but was extended. It was managed and overseen by Citizens Advice and Crosslight Advice with the Wave Community Bank managing the funding. The scheme opened on 1May 2023 and closed on Friday 5 April 2024.
  • Debt Relief Orders (DRO) are a form of insolvency. A debt relief order is an option for people on low income with no assets and debts of £30,000 or less. There are strict criteria to qualify for this type of insolvency which Citizens Advice and Crosslight debt professionals would identify.
  • At the Spring 2024 Budget, the Chancellor announced the abolition of the £90 administration fee from 6 April 2024. The Government was also planning to raise the maximum debt value threshold from £30,000 to £50,000 and increase the maximum value of motor vehicle that an individual can retain from £2,000 to £4,000, from 28 June 2024.